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On Monday, the Catholic Church will celebrate the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul. The Brazilian city of Sao Paulo will also celebrate its anniversary that day, as the Portuguese priests who founded the city, did so on that date in 1554. As I write from a Europe almost utterly devoid of the message […]

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Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Meet The New Jacobins, Same As The Old Jacobins

 

Political heresy builds upon heresy. What we are seeing today in the United States has a long history in Europe. Progressives in the United States are not proposing anything new, and in fact, whether today’s Progressives know it or not, their mistaken belief in state collective salvation.

Lord Acton famously said that “few discoveries are more irritating than those that expose the pedigree of ideas.”

This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard are joined by Taylor Branch, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of a landmark trilogy on the Civil Rights era, America in the King Years. They discuss the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, whose birthday the nation observed on Monday. They review Dr. King’s powerful, moving oratory, drawing on spiritual and civic ideals to promote nonviolent protest against racial injustice, and how, as head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, he shared leadership of the movement with organizations such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. They also discuss the pivotal role that school-aged children played in the successes of the Civil Rights Movement, and how to talk with schoolchildren today about those heart-wrenching images such as six-year-old Ruby Bridges being escorted by U.S. marshals as she desegregated the New Orleans Public Schools, and young students facing Bull Connor’s dogs and fire hoses in Alabama. Branch shares thoughts on how to ensure that the women involved in the movement, including Septima Clark, Ella Baker, Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Diane Nash, receive due credit for their contributions. He concludes with a reading from one of his books.

Stories of the Week: President-elect Biden is backing up his pledge to get kids back to school with a proposed $130 million in stimulus funds to cover the costs of reconfiguring K-12 classrooms, improving ventilation, personal protective equipment, and other social distancing requirements. Will the cash infusion work, and will support be offered to income-eligible private school students? A U.S. Government Accountability Office study takes a close look at school improvement efforts across all states, with some promising findings.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Is the Mark of the Beast in the Needle?

 

A retired pastor in our church is part of a really wonderful ministry distributing wheelchairs in Nigeria. Most of those in need of the chairs are victims of polio. As recently as thirty years ago, Nigeria had thousands of new polio cases every year. Thankfully, at that time, Rotary International stepped in and spread the vaccine throughout the country. Other organizations also played a part, so cases fell from 350,000 cases worldwide to 407 cases in 2013. I believe there were just 22 cases in 2019, but people who contracted polio decades ago still need wheelchairs. My friend was planning to make his annual trip to helo distribute wheelchairs last year, but, you know, the Covid. 

I understand why some people would have concerns about the vaccines for Covid-19. Through abrupt and often contradictory policy changes over the past year, the government and the medical establishment have done much to damage their credibility. The vaccine was made so quickly (thanks to the administration’s Warp Speed program), that it worries some. I can understand that those worries. Don’t agree the worries are sensible, but I can understand them.

But some people these days doubt the efficacy of vaccines in general — and if you don’t recognize the effectiveness of vaccines in battling polio and smallpox and measles and many other diseases, your opposition of the Covid-19 vaccine might be consistent, but your attitude doesn’t speak well for your intelligence (and possibly your sanity).

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Watching Her Walk

 

I watched her walk down the hall toward her bedroom, her right heel falling short of the hardwood floor, each step jostling her little frame to the left in an exaggerated sway, the next step shooting her spine straight and vertical, and then falling to the sway again as the pattern of her gait repeated. She disappeared through the door. I’d asked her to go change her clothes, wondering if she would or not. She often protested, leaving me to wonder if she might be looking for my help just to get a few extra moments with mom.

I turned back to the mirror to finish curling my hair while listening to the morning news. The nation’s capital building had been breached a few days before, and I couldn’t help but search for encouraging words, a glimmer of hope, a ray of light. My uncertainties about almost everything had escalated, and now given all the rumors about bad things happening, even my phone seemed like a sudden stranger, and a new mystery. I felt the energy of a struggling hope begin to wane. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw that she had returned.

She was there, standing still and waiting for me to turn and inspect her ensemble. I did, noting the much-improved coordination of colors between her chartreuse t-shirt and a more muted collage of greens on her leggings. She waited for my smile of approval, which I gladly offered, and then she nodded downward toward her new shoes, a pair of black suede Ugg ankle boots. They were on the wrong feet. I’d told her yesterday that the zipper goes on the inside, but she hadn’t quite caught on. Or maybe she had and was only making things work. She’s good at making things work.

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. My Name Is Ruth

 

When life tosses what looks like a barrier in our path, we are often stunned and confused. We duck, or try to move around it, or decide to retreat. But once we realize that the barrier cannot be avoided and is not really a barrier, but perhaps even a blessing, we discover that we can choose to move through it and take the path of the unknown and the potential blessings that might ensue.

That’s what I’m trying to do with my diagnosis of breast cancer. And already the blessings and good wishes are overwhelming; I can hardly believe that so many people care. Each person offers me an opportunity for gratitude, humility and the strength to move through what may be a difficult time, and will likely be a life-changing experience.

A few days ago, I had the good fortune of having one friend, @iwe, reach out to me in a deeply meaningful way. In the Jewish tradition, a child or convert is given a Hebrew or Yiddish name. In my case, I know that I was given a name, but I have no memory of it. (My mother mentioned it to me once and I didn’t make a note of it back in my barely Jewish days.)

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Love Thy Neighbor

 

It is when we have the most cause to hate and reject our neighbors that we most need to remember the command to love them. Yes, my fellow Christians, it is a command and not merely an invitation. Though no challenge could be so difficult to fulfill, it is the foundation rather than the pinnacle of Christian love. It is a challenge not reserved only for the holiest saints but rather put to every one of us. Our Lord and Creator doesn’t even stop there. “Love thy neighbor as thy self.”

A philosophy professor and friend once caught me off guard by claiming that the Golden Rule is nothing special. Any person raised in a good home knows not to mistreat others as oneself doesn’t want to be abused.

Happy New Year! Join Jim and Greg as they cheer the government making the right choice to void a major penalty for distilleries that produced hand sanitizer to meet demand in the early months of the pandemic. They also discuss President Trump’s phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in which Trump said Georgia officials had not done enough to investigate voting irregularities and said he needed to find nearly 12,000 votes. And they have fun with the total lunacy of House Democrats removing gendered language and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver ending his open prayer of the new session by saying “Amen and A woman.”

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Koinonia’s Advent Celebration During the Bavarian COVID Lockdown (II) of 2020

 

Back in September, when the irrational and ineffective COVID-19 inspired restrictions on public life were less stringent than they currently are here in Bavaria, our neighbor, Johannes Mair, had a moment of inspiration. We were standing around in the driveway in front of the Koinonia Christian community house here in Biburg when Jo Mair repeatedly counted the windows on the side of the house facing the street.

“24. Hmm. We’ve got 24 windows. Like an Adventkalender. We could turn the house into a living Adventkalender,“ he mused. That afternoon, I didn’t give the idea much thought but Jo came to the next house meeting with a detailed proposal for creating this living Advent Calendar using the house’s windows, having public readings, music, even a larger outdoor creche. We would invite everyone in Biburg and nearby villages and arrange it as a kind of evangelistic event, as well. The house leadership thought this was a great idea.

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. We Share So Much

 

Several days ago, a dear friend asked me if there was anything meaningful to me about Christmas; she asked with hesitation, since she’s Catholic and knows I’m Jewish and we are close friends. I took my time answering her, wanting to be respectful and loving in my response. And so I said, of course: we all want peace and goodwill at this time of year.

In fact, this year as Christians and Jews, secular and religious, we share more in common than we have differences. When we have losses, we all feel pain and desolation; when others have losses, we remind them that we love and care for them. We all want people to be safe from disease and difficulties. We all want to have joy in our lives, healthy and happy families, warm friendships, and lives of meaning.

We share some of the same aspirations: to learn something new, to explore a new environ, to walk freely without limitations. We want to be free of fear, where we can see each other smile and give each other hugs (except for those of you who don’t do hugs). We even share some of the same frustrations: locked up in our homes, locked out of our churches, many of us pray for each other. We know what it feels like to be isolated and distant. And we aspire to the time when we will be free to be together again.

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Oratio, composed by Pater Robert Mehlhart OP in German/English/Latin text Jeremiah 5 Dominican Chant for Holy Saturday. Hat tip to the Canadian blog Small Dead Animals in their Reader’s tips thread. More details at the article linked below: Preview Open

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Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Give Me Some of That Watered Down Religion

 

A friend posted this morning that today would normally be a great day, one of his favorites of the year. The last work day of the year. People bringing in food for a potluck lunch. Then sitting around chatting and not working, eventually landing on discussing Star Wars. This year it is just Wednesday.

It reminded me of my work’s Christmas Holiday Party this year. It was last week over Zoom. No one in my branch went and I don’t know if anyone did. The directorate would always have a meetup on the first Friday on the month in the Before Times. They kept advertising virtual ones during the year so maybe some people are still attending them. I was then reminded of a different Holiday Party years ago. I was in the military and we were having a commander’s call in November. They called the company grade officer in charge of the party to come up and give the details. He lead off with “The Christmas Party will be…”. He was stopped and corrected to say Holiday. I think he said Christmas one more time before being corrected again and finally saying Holiday Party.

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Will There Ultimately be Justice?

 

I’m one of those dinosaurs who actually cares about the truth. I despise people who lie, and especially people who lie and think there’s nothing wrong with it.

For a long time, my friends have told me that in politics, lying is baked in the cake. I refuse to accept that lying must be accepted in politics, but I guess I have to expect that there are people who say it’s a necessary evil.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Book Review: Thinking Orthodox

 

“What truly makes Orthodox Christianity different? Is it simply that we do not have a pope? That we preserve ancient liturgical forms and rituals? That married men can be priests?
The question does not lend itself to a simple answer because the reality is complex. In fact, the essence of Orthodox uniqueness lies far beyond these fundamentals… It is hidden, subtle, deeper than the outward forms, customs, or specific theological beliefs that manifest the divergence. The Orthodox phronema (“mentality,” “stance,” or “approach”) is the foundation of Orthodox Christianity. It is usually unexpressed and unexamined, and rarely discussed, but it affects not simply what we believe and why but — above all else — how we think.”⁠1

It needs to be said at the outset that Thinking Orthodox: Understanding and Acquiring the Orthodox Christian Mind, by Dr. Eugenia Constantinou, is not exactly a book of Orthodox theology (though it contains much). It might be described as a book about Orthodox theology. But it is better described as a book about how to begin to think and understand like an Orthodox Christian, and so to understand Orthodox theology, while avoiding traps, heresies, and dangers along the way.  

The book is guide to understanding how the very culture we live in is imbued with a mindset (a phronema, to use the Greek idiom the author introduces) and spirit that is very often hostile to, or at least at odds with Orthodox Christianity. Even Western Christianity, in both its Catholic and Protestent forms, has a very different mindset. In this the book is a valuable guide for converts, inquirers, and even cradle-Orthodox who may not be aware how different that understanding is. But the book is of great value even for non-Orthodox Christians, for much of it is a guide for our times, where Christianity is in retreat, and where the internet can deceive us all into thinking ourselves experts after half an hour on Wikipedia, or lure us towards extremists and zealots who seek division. Much of Dr. Constantinou’s book should indeed be read by all Christians who could find themselves arguing theology with strangers through a keyboard.

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Someone recently Tweeted “Handel’s Messiah >>>>>> All the other Christmas music.” I don’t think there is any arguing with that. But there is some other wonderful Christmas music, even from this century. Reliant K’s Let It Snow Baby, Let It Reindeer is my current favorite outside the work of Frederick. There is a song from […]

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Join Jim and Greg as they applaud Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for cranking out as many judicial confirmations as possible before the end of the session. They also discuss the truly crazy comments of Georgia Senate hopefuls Rev. Warnock comparing the GOP tax cuts to Herod’s slaughter of babies in Bethlehem and Jon Ossoff being clueless on the job of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. And they shake their heads as officials in Austin, Texas, finally realize that shutting down and defunding the police cadet academy was probably a bad idea.